Friday, June 11, 2010

Dad Didn't Make 89, But He Does Live On

Dad would have been 89 years old today. Since he died in 1985, I can't even picture Dad at 89. (And it does not seem like 25 years since he died!) I do have quite a collection of pictures in my brain, though.

My claim to family fame is teaching Dad how to eat a hamburger. Dad sold life and health insurance, and sometimes he had appointments during the dinner hour. He didn't like missing dinner with the family, and he hated to eat alone. On those occasions when he missed dinner, he would hijack one of his kids to a restaurant. I must have been about 14 or 15 years old the night Dad decided to take me to the Chocolate Pit. The Chocolate Pit was a friendly coffee shop, or as Dad would have said, "hamburger joint." Dad and I were talking, eating, and enjoying one another's company. He stopped almost mid-sentence and got the funniest look on his face--one of the permanent pictures in my brain. He looked at his hamburger, and then he looked at mine. He said, "How in the heck do you do that?! How do you eat a hamburger without it falling apart?! Mine always falls apart!" I then explained to him that once I pick up my hamburger and begin to eat, I never set it down. If you set it down, it falls apart. I hold my hamburger with my left hand, leaving my right dominant hand to pick up french fries, dip in ketchup (catsup, if you prefer), drink my soda, and use my napkin. Dad was so delighted! (Another permanent brain picture.) He could not believe that I could have figured out this perfect system for neatness. (Those who didn't know my very excentric father, he was a total neat freak!)

I'm sure all of Dad's kids have one particular image: Dad dancing and doing the "goose step" in the grocery store aisle. This was a favorite Dick Janes pastime. There were no video cameras in those days, but they had those big mirrors at the ends of the aisles to discourage shoplifting. Dad delighted in seeing if he could "goose step" without getting caught in the mirrors.

My favorite photograph of Dad is one that I took without his knowledge. My first job after high school was working at Breuner's Furniture Store in Reno. The employee discount allowed me to buy my first stereo--and it was a nice one! I bought excellent quality headphones, with a cord long enough to stretch from the living room down the hall to my bedroom. That way during the day the family could enjoy the stereo, and at night, I could use the headphones to go to sleep to music. I bought my first Johnny Mathis album, and Dad loved it! He had never heard of Johnny Mathis, so he teased me about Johnny Mathis being Nat King Cole's imitator. Dad loved to get up on Sunday morning and cook breakfast. I woke up early one Sunday morning and discovered Dad in the kitchen peeling potatoes for hashbrowns with the headphones on listening to Johnny Mathis. (Picture above.)

Dad's laugh is still with me too. I can still hear him all these years later--and I can see his face getting red and tears running down his face as he laughed. Somewhere at home I have an audio tape that includes his laugh. I haven't listened to it in a long time. It's actually very hard to listen to it.

There is a piece of Dad in all of his children. And at least one of his grandchildren, Ezra, has his mannerisms, which is a little creepy since Dad died when Ezra was 2 years old. Ezra doesn't even remember Dad.

Maybe the reason it doesn't seem like Dad has been gone for 25 years is because he lives on in the stories. Dad was such an excentric character that he has provided literally hundreds of stories for the family history. It's difficult for me to teach a lesson or give a talk in church without using a Dick Janes story. There are just so many ways to use him as an example to teach others! Maybe he really didn't need to live past 64 after all; he had already provided the example and the lessons for his children and grandchildren. We just need to keep telling the stories.

Question to my siblings: Who has the original picture below? The only copy I have was printed on cheap photocopy paper years ago, and it's one of my favorites. If you have it, can you scan it and send it to me?

July 24, 2010 - Update: This missing picture has been found!


  1. I remember Dad lying on a couch that was too short for him (and he was only 5'8") with his legs hanging over the end, reading "The Night the Ghost Got In" by James Thurber. It is a short story which had been printed in Reader's Digest. He was laughing hysterically, and there were tears running down his face. When he finished the story, he decided to read it to the whole family. He was laughing so hard he was gasping for air and drooling. None of us could understand what he was saying, so we just sat there and laughed at him laughing. On two different occasions, later, I checked the story out of the library, and I somehow just could never get as tickled about reading it as he did!

    As for grandchildren, do you remember how Dad used to play with the babies during their bath? He'd turn the cold water on so it was a really fine, but steady stream and then he'd make a circle with his thumb and index finger and go up and down that stream of water without getting his fingers wet? Well, Joshua was born seven months AFTER Dad passed away, and one night I was watching him as he played in the tub, and he wanted the water on. I turned on a fine stream of water so he didn't freeze to death, and all of a sudden he was running his fingers up and down the stream the way Dad used to. It suddenly occurred to me, that while Josh was waiting to come to earth, Dad was up there playing water games with him!

  2. I remember the baby baths. They continued as the kids got a little older too. Molly and Hannah's last memory of their Grandpa Janes is a bathtub memory. We stopped in Reno to spend the night with Mom and Dad on our way to Idaho to visit Danny's folks. Dad gave the girls a bubble bath with some pretty snazy bubble bath that someone had given Mom. While the girls soaked, he made them his famous vanilla milkshakes and took them in to the girls. They've never forgotten drinking milkshakes in the bubble bath. We were only in Idaho a couple of days when we were called back to Reno because Dad was in the hospital not expected to live.